World Watch Monitor, September 10, 2020
The Eritrean government has released on bail more than 20 prisoners who’d been in detention for years because of their faith, possibly because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the BBC reports. The prisoners are from Christian evangelical and Pentecostal denominations, some held in a prison outside the capital Asmara.
In 2002 Eritrea introduced a new law that forbids all Churches except for the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran ones. Sunni Islam is also officially recognised. The Eritrean government has not responded to BBC requests for confirmation or denial. Previously, it’s dismissed accusations of intolerance to religious freedom.
In June 2019, the government seized all Catholic-run health clinics in the country and arrested five Orthodox priests.
In August 2019, Eritrea’s Orthodox patriarch, Abune Antonios, was expelled by pro-government bishops of his Church, accused of heresy; he had been under house arrest since 2007, when he refused to comply with the regime’s attempts to interfere with church affairs.
The US says “In 2019, religious freedom conditions in Eritrea worsened, with increasing interference in and restrictions on religious groups. Eritrea continues to have one of the worst religious freedom records in the world”. Some prisoners, such as the leader of the Full Gospel Church, have been in prison for more than 15 years.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, September 15, 2020
For decades, the Burmese government has prioritised military spending over health spending, leaving Burma in a very weak position to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Burmese military (the Tatmadaw) has a long history of violent attacks on religious and ethnic minorities. Victims of Burmese military attacks – many of whom are Kachin or Chin Christians, and Rohingya Muslims – have been forced to flee their homes and have lost everything.
Adding to their sufferings, Burma’s government places restrictions on the aid they receive, and assistance from international donors is insufficient.
Local NGOs are working hard to support internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living camps and poor conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A temporary ceasefire is now in place across Burma but we need to pray that it would be extended to cover Rakhine and Chin states and lead to genuine peace throughout the country.
Fraser helped facilitate an online meeting last week for over 100 Principals of Bible colleges, theological colleges and seminaries to discuss collaboration, sustainability, and the practicalities of online education, and especially to listen to the African viewpoint.
Dawn attended the first general Hope Prison Ministry meeting since lockdown in Cape Town yesterday. The prisons are still closed to visitors; pray that a way for ministry teams to return would be found. The lockdown has imposed stresses on many relationships, including those of ex-inmates who now work for the ministry.
Edward Stoffels, the ex-Drakenstein inmate, is still trying to live faithfully in a God-honouring way but must find somewhere else to live by the end of the month.
It’s heart-breaking when people who really intend to live honest lives find themselves in situations where the temptation to fall back into criminal activities is too great for them.
Our South African visas expire at the end of October. We had planned to have the renewal process well advanced but covid19 put paid to that. Please pray there will be no hitches in the granting of visas for the next two years.
Ruth started her new degree course this week, James’ final year begins soon as well.
Jihadi attacks in the DRC
Barnabas Fund, 15 September 2020
At least 58 people were killed and 17 kidnapped when Muslim militants attacked two villages in the mainly-Christian north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in early September.
Twenty-three people were murdered on 8 September and another 35 were killed two days later. Large numbers of the population have since fled.
Members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist militant group active in the region for more than two decades, are thought to have carried out the atrocity. The terrorist group had entered the region to escape military action against them in neighbouring North Kivu province.
More than 700 people have been killed in Ituri province since 2017, according to the UN. The north-east region has seen a surge of violence since October 2019, when the army launched a large-scale offensive against the ADF.
International Christian Concern, September 14, 2020
A new report produced by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education studied 238 Qatari textbooks over the last four academic years. The report looks at two separate parts of the curriculum as it relates to Christians. The overall conclusion was that the curriculum does not promote religious tolerance.
It noted some improvements with the Qatari curriculum in that it gives much information about Christian-Muslim interactions during the Middle Ages. There are more exercises related to cultural sharing. However, it does speak suspiciously of missionary activities, generally defined within the spheres of education, deceptive charities, and medical treatments. It warns that such activities are meant to “destroy Islam.”
The report noted almost no improvement with the curriculum of Islamic religious studies. The curriculum heavily emphasizes that Christians want to destroy Islam and blames local non-Muslim minorities with collaborating with the enemy. The report calls this an “indoctrination toward resentment.” The report also notes that the curriculum does not include material relating to the persecution of Christians. Instead, Christians are viewed as infidels.
What does exist relating to references of tolerance does not meet international standards. It warns that pan-Islamic, pan-Arab nationalism, Salafism, and the Muslim Brotherhood “dominate the religious tenor of the curriculum.”
When residents are first accepted by the Daniel Centre, they are given a 6 or 9 month contract. These contracts are then renewed as necessary according to the needs and attitudes of the individual residents
István, Soreen and Alix are now, willingly or unwillingly, coming to the end of their time there and will only have their contracts renewed with difficulty. André, who came in July, now has a job and is a stable addition to the Centre.
Balazs hopes that they may be able to qualify for some of the €1 billion EU fund to help develop the depot where the Blythswood Charity Shop currently stands to release more sustainable cash in future from rentals.
Adi has had two good summer camps, one in relation to Talita Kum for primary school children and the other a more secular camp for artists.
TK1 and TK2 return to business in the next couple of weeks but the school situation in Romania is currently quite chaotic with teachers and pupils alike not knowing quite what to expect or what the rules are.
The rate of increase in Covid cases has now flattened.
Morning Star News, August 20, 2020
Municipal officials in Nepal ordered a church to stop construction of a worship hall after about 40 local Hindus objected to it.
Hindus had threatened relatives who became Christians after pastor Manish Bohra began proclaiming Christ in January. When the church began to outgrow its rented room, he obtained an eight-year lease on land from an area resident on which to build a temporary worship structure.
“On July 26, I received a phone call from officials warning us not to construct a church, and that they had received a petition from the local residents opposing Christian activities in the area,” Pastor Bohra told Morning Star News.
Nepalese law does not provide for registration of religious organizations with the exception of Buddhist monasteries.
The church in Galkot began with just two families in January and within a few weeks grew to 45 members.
“Many from Hindu families had come to Christ from poverty-stricken and emotionally drained families. As a church, we had encouraged them to put belief in Christ, and soon we saw the Lord working in their lives.”
World Watch Monitor, August 21, 2020
Lord Alton’s question recognised the new UN International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief on 22 August.
In Nigeria, Boko Haram alone has killed 27,000 people over the past 10 years, based on its extreme radical Islamist beliefs and agenda.
Latest research by the Pew Center shows India, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, CAR, Pakistan, Israel, Bangladesh and Yemen have ‘very high’ social hostility involving religion.
The focus is limited to violence based on religion or belief.
“Poland and other states have to be commended for recognizing the issue of violence based on religion or belief as a contemporary issue that can no longer be neglected”.
Pew has shown that, of all global religions, it is Christians who experience the most hostility.
Nationalistic governments such as India and Myanmar continue to deny freedom of religion for their sizeable Christian minorities. Mobs often attack and kill with impunity.
Extreme persecution also comes at the hands of radical Islamic militias, such as in in Mali, Chad, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Libya and Somalia.
Last Friday, Fraser ‘electronically hosted’ an online Zoom meeting of all the NetACT College Principals from across Africa, live-streamed it on YouTube, and facilitated various text-based discussion forums. There were over 60 in ‘attendance’ and the afternoon went very well.
A second Zoom meeting for the Portuguese-speaking colleges, was quite a challenge for the translator who listened to the main Zoom meeting on one device and translated for the Portuguese group on a different device.
Fraser was delighted that all 50 NetACT partners sent in a response to a questionnaire regarding the post-Covid19 future of theological education in Africa.
The next stage is a joint meeting, planned for Wednesday 9th September, with as many other Bible colleges, theological colleges, and seminaries as possible.
Prisons are working at half-numbers and were short-staffed even before covid19 hit. Security could so easily be compromised through fatigue, burnout, temptation, and violence. The majority of wardens do their best with little appreciation under difficult circumstances. It is especially challenging for women wardens in male prisons.
The general impression here is that many people are too important to be held to account. Pray for courage, integrity, and protection for those in a position to stand for good leadership and honesty.
Both Dawn and Fraser are still experiencing some of the after-effects of their bouts with (suspected) covid19. Pray for their restoration to health, especially lungs and stamina.
Jihadi militants take 100s hostage in Nigeria
Barnabas Fund, 27 August 2020
22 trucks loaded with heavily armed jihadists thundered into a mainly-Christian town in north-eastern Nigeria, with the militants taking hundreds hostage on August 18th.
The Islamic State West Africa Province terrorist group, an off-shoot of Boko Haram, captured local people as they fled and launched an attack on a nearby military station protecting the town.
The 1,200 residents had only recently returned to their home town near the border with Lake Chad, after spending 2 years in refugee camps 120 miles to the south in the state capital.
The residents had returned full of hope to restart their lives and cultivate their farmlands “only to end up in the hands of the insurgents”.
Local government authorities had declared the town safe and ordered the residents to return under a military escort.
In the past two years, some two million internally displaced people (IDPs) have been repatriated to towns in the north-east. But many IDPs are wary that jihadists still have a foothold and it remains unsafe for them to return.